Zimbabwe’s main teachers’ union has demanded that the proceeds of diamond sales be spent on their members’ wages, saying there are no more excuses for the government not to compensate its civil service.
Teachers and other government workers last week Wednesday issued an ultimatum to the government, insisting that they will launch a ‘crippling’ strike if their demands for higher pay and better working conditions are not met.
This is the latest strike threat issued to the unity government, which has repeatedly stated that there is no money for a significant wage increase.
But as Takavafira Zhou, the President of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) argued on Monday, the discovery of wealthy diamond deposits in Marange should be changing this situation.
Zhou told SW Radio Africa that the country’s vast mineral resources, particularly the Chiadzwa diamond fields, “are not being harnessed by the government for the benefit of Zimbabwe or civil servants.” He said they are losing patience with the government line that there is no money for wage increases.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti last year pegged the 2012 national budget on what he expected would be a welcome cash injection from the local diamond trade. Biti said he had been promised US$600 million from diamond sales by the Mines Ministry, with most of the money allocated to various infrastructure development projects.
But half-way through the financial year, the Prime Minister has said that only US$25 million of diamond money has been remitted to treasury. Morgan Tsvangirai told Cabinet last month that funds received to date had been very disappointing and far short of budgetary estimates.
Biti has now also admitted that one of the main mining firms in the Chiadzwa fields, the Chinese owned Anjin mine, is not remitting anything to the treasury, despite making a serious profit. In an interview with The Independent newspaper recently, Biti said nothing was coming from the company, “not even a single cent.”
This is despite the Anjin mine being started on the understanding that it was a joint venture with the state and the treasury would be getting 50% of the profits. It has since emerged that the government does not hold any shares in the lucrative business, and instead there are two army linked groups working with the Chinese.
The PTUZ’s Zhou said Monday that the salaries of teachers and other civil servants, as well as the country’s economy, was being held hostage by what he called “economic bandits,” saying that only ZANU PF and its associates were benefiting from Zimbabwe’s mineral wealth.
“If the minerals, particularly the diamonds, were only being tapped into by ZANU PF and the proceeds went to the Treasury, then Zimbabwe could be saved,” Zhou said.
He explained that the morale among the nation’s teachers was at an all time low, with serious knock on effects for school children.
“There is no meaningful teaching taking place and teachers can’t even afford to send their own children to the schools where they teach. So we will see what government says in two weeks, but we are tired of the hide and seek game they are playing,” Zhou said.
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